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Agent lodges complaint about OnTheMarket with Competition & Markets AuthorityIn the latest battle in the war of words between Agents' Mutual and online estate agents, eMoov has lodged a complaint with the CMA accusing the new portal provider of running an illegal cartel.

The CMA has taken over from the now-defunct Office of Fair Trading and part of its work involves providing guidance on competitions legislation and the operation of cartels.

eMoov chief executive Russell Quirk has told Estate Agent Today: My complaint against AM is that a) it is an illegal cartel being run by 10 estate agency directors to form a protective entity, and b) that [it] works to the detriment of the consumer with regard to excluding online estate agents together with the anti-competitive nature of its approach to singling out which portals a member is permitted' to list on.

Quirk insists Agents' Mutual, which is scheduled to launch its OnTheMarket portal in just over two months' time, is engaging in anti-competitive practices.

The CMA has issued a response to Quirk, including these two paragraphs:

The CMA will review and retain the information you have sent us to support any future work that the CMA may choose to carry out. Your report may contribute to our investigations and if it does we may get in touch with you. However, we are unable to enter into correspondence about every individual complaint.

We have noted your complaint and brought it to the attention of our pipeline/intelligence teams. We use the intelligence we gather, alongside our Prioritisation Principles to develop our pipeline of new projects and programmes of work and make the best use of CMA resources in terms of real outcomes for UK consumers.

A spokesman for the CMA told Estate Agent Today that a complaint does not automatically trigger an investigation - although if it is judged to be serious enough, it may do so.


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    @Simon & EAT

    This is getting interesting....so who's paying for this law suit

    Simon or EAT

    • 25 October 2014 18:53 PM
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    Sorry Ray, you are missing the point, this isn't about opinion, it's about law. The exclusivity rule restricts competition in the market, it does so to enhance the profits of the participants, the consumer is then faced with a potentially opaque market where they don't realise their properties may not get full exposure. I have read up on this and to me the exclusivity rule has the hall marks of an illegal anti competitive practice, actually it looks like a cartel, which is worse. As a member of a cartel, it is no longer necessary, from April this year, for the authorities, the CMA , to prove criminal intent, so whatever your opinion, you would be well advised to seek proper legal advice. One Ray of hope (sorry) is that if it turns out AM is a cartel, all their agreements are null and void, so agents who have signed up may be entitled to redress. The hope is, for the sake of the industry, it doesn't come to that and AM either prove they are within the law, or climb down and rethink their proposition.

    • 25 October 2014 14:59 PM
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    @Simon Shinerock

    In my view AM are not doing anything 'illegal'.
    Traditional agents, with high street premises approachable by the public at will, are offering one particular 'face to face' service. Agents can join if they wish and the public can use them if they wish. It is free choice.

    • 25 October 2014 08:57 AM
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    What a move by Russell Quirk. Genius. The amount of column inches his accumulated this week would equate to thousands in marketing spend. I'm just been amazed that his been allowed to get away with it.

    He probably doesn't even want to go on to OnTheMarket. He must be laughing his head off.

    • 25 October 2014 07:41 AM
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    @Jackie Oliver @Ray Evans You are only right if two and two makes five, which only usually happens in primary school playgrounds. A Cartel is a group of businesses who agree to restrict competition, or fix prices to their own advantage. Anyone is 'free' to join an illegal cartel, just as society is 'free' to fine them, disqualify them and in some cases send them to prison. Freedom is a power we are given, best use it wisely.

    • 24 October 2014 21:45 PM
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    @obviousjoe - it was never about quashing Rightmove or Zoopla, it's about taking control of ones own destiny and expenses!
    @rayevans - thank you - I find it unbelievable how some people just don't get it.. ;-)

    • 24 October 2014 16:25 PM
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    AM was originally incorporated to quash either RM or Zoopla, you can't complain about the future tactics (now being used against online agents) or you're a hypocrite.

    • 24 October 2014 15:30 PM
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    Agents never cease to amaze me. Perhaps if so called 'Traditional' agents spent more time concentrating on the level customer service and choice of product they offered and less time worrying about what the competition is up to (online or otherwise) they would actually gain more favour.
    It's 2014, online agents exist, deal with it. Some are good, some are awful, guess what - like high street agents. The fact OTM wants to restrict online agents is a prime example of the old establishment stomping their feet and making any attempt to restrict the competition rather than actually ensure they up their game. The same happened with print, established agents used their power in an attempt to sway regional newspapers to not carry advertisements from the online only sector. The vast majority couldn't wait to reduce their print presence and spend once 'the market' allowed this.
    I'm quite sure every high street agent doesn't spend their Saturday visiting the butcher, greengrocer and baker. A proportion may visit a supermarket, some (hold your breath) may even download a book from Amazon rather than visit the independent book seller!
    You cannot remove online agents simply by restricting their practice, what you should be doing is ensuring your customers are satisfied with your product and your service, they would have no need to look online then would they But agents aren't like that, they like someone else to blame!

    OTM's attempt to restrict agents practice is exactly what I would expect from an organisation run by narrow minded estate agents. I bet RM are shaking!

    • 24 October 2014 12:46 PM
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    @Jackie Oliver

    Yours is the best and most accurate post of the lot.

    • 24 October 2014 08:57 AM
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    The public will see this as a fat cat cartel of agents who complain about their costs but never pass on their costs savings to them.

    Consumer probably feels stronger about agents than agents do about portals.

    • 24 October 2014 04:47 AM
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    Some very strange things being published by EAT of late. It really is quite odd the efforts being made to try to stop people signing up to onthemarket.

    I think Ray Evans might be on to something.

    • 23 October 2014 19:55 PM
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    I'm happily on the fence - this is going to get dirty!

    • 23 October 2014 19:33 PM
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    The question here is whether a group of agents is acting together to consciously limit the choice/price/quality that is available to the end consumer:

    [i]"I am sorry Mr Vendor, I cannot put your property on Rightmove/Zoopla because I have signed a contract which restricts me from doing so, even though the supplier I have chosen in its place delivers less value to my business, at a similar cost (although I have a loan note with that company that pays a handsome annual return) and ultimately you, the consumer may achieve a lower price due to this restricted service"[/i]

    This behaviour could very easily be classified as anti competitive - potentially an illegal cartel.

    What's the difference Well, one could mean a fine, the other prison...

    Words taken directly from the government's website:

    [b]Why should cartels be broken up[/b]
    Cartels allow businesses to achieve greater profits for less effort to the detriment of consumers and the economy as a whole. For the purchasers of their goods or services this means:
    higher prices
    poorer quality, and
    less or no choice.

    Good luck to those involved...

    • 23 October 2014 18:28 PM
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    The law isn't personal and bodies like the CMA are in no hurry to act. Any agent joining AM while there is even a faint question mark about the legality of the exclusivity rule will have the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads for an indeterminate period. You have to cooly weigh up what you have to gain and what you have to lose from joining this organisation, sometimes the juice just ain't worth the squeeze. By coincidence, my next Industry views article deals with the potential threat to agents who join AM if it turns out they are breaking the recently updated and strenghend anti competition rules, or worse still are guilty of running an illegal cartel

    • 23 October 2014 18:08 PM
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    I really don't know what all the fuss is about! Those agents who have joined On The Market have done so of their own free will, to provide a 'without profit' portal that they can all use, rather than continue to pay the shareholder pleasing fees charged by the big 2. If there is a cartel or anti competitive behaviour, it may be considered by some to be the existing arrangement.

    On The Market is to be run by and for the benefit of [b]all[/b] Member Agents (not just 10), so why would Member Agents want to allow online agents to use their own portal

    All agents are free to choose whether or not they drop another portal. No one is making them. They join up to On The Market and they make that choice. They adhere to their own rules. On The Market adds competition to the existing portal market. Those 'other' agents who choose to use one portal or no portals in some case - are they to be accused of acting to the detriment of their clients

    Clients are free to choose agents - agents are free to choose portals. If the online agents don't like it they can always start their own portal - as the significant number of On The Market offices have done.

    • 23 October 2014 16:33 PM
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    Just because Quirk is making a complaint doesn't mean he wants to join AM. Irrespective of his motivation there is definitely a case to answer. AM know this because the AM rep at the only meeting I attended made a big song and dance about insisting she couldn't be in the room during any discussions about which portal might be dropped because of ant-competition laws. How ridiculous is that! Any half decent lawyer would drive a train through that nonsense.

    • 23 October 2014 15:06 PM
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    The guest that re-commented. I appreciate that on line agents eventually pay the equivalent of 15 to 20 branches as you quoted, but only at the time that your stock has grown to justify this uplift in cost. In other words, If I decided to open up 15 branches in one hit, I would have to pay a subscription for each branch with not one property physically advertised....yes However, an online agent only starts paying a higher subscription once the stock has grown to dictate it. Therefore, you can cover the whole of the UK day one, with no stock and 1 subscription. Whereas, the high street agent with 15 branches and no stock has to pay 1 subscription per office....FACT. Therefore, you have the luxury of paying a higher fee, once you have grown and can afford it....FACT.

    • 23 October 2014 11:32 AM
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    Oh dear Oh dear.....he only went and DID IT!!!...Nice that you are a doer rather than a sayer Russell, but you never know when to stop, do you. Just like the promise to Thurrock buyers that they wouldn't lose value in their properties , if they bought through you at QD (just before the crash - we know what happened next)...And then here you were, with a great new proposition in emoov which seemed to be heading in the right direction for you, good adverts and growing users....Until this!!!!.....Surely you must realise that you have played right into the traditional agents hands with this one!...It's a no win situation....In reporting a site that won't let you on you have effectively said that you can't exist at the moment unless you are seen with the established high street agents. What you should be doing, if you really....and I mean REALLY believe in your company then you should be confident enough to go for it without AM/OTM....You really have come across as someone who feels he can't go it alone with online at the moment....So much so you want legal action taken against OTM - which makes you seem SO desperate to get on it ....otherwise you would fail. A big own goal for you....and you were going so well!

    • 23 October 2014 11:28 AM
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    Please....will everyone stop this silly nonsense Including EAT.

    • 23 October 2014 11:07 AM
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    I was actually in agreement with Quirk the other day, but he is a shameless self-publicist and his antics do very quickly get tedious.

    Having said that, Agents' Mutual are doing a wonderful job of tying themselves up in knots. They don't seem to know what they want to stand for, or who they stand for. Bit of a mess, really.

    • 23 October 2014 10:51 AM
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    This guy, and the publicity he is afforded by the industry, is like boy that cried wolf. He'll complain about anything and everything. Can we please stop giving him a soapbox

    • 23 October 2014 09:47 AM
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    Oliver Cromewell. You have your facts totally wrong I am afraid.

    It would be great if we could pay Rightmove 1 fee. We actually pay the equivalent of 6 branches so our fee to Rightmove per month is actually 2,900+vat per month.

    Companies like Emoov , Housenetwork are probably paying the equivalent of 15-20 branches at full price so it not actually structured. My Rightmove account manager loves us as every month as it is like him getting a new customer every month...

    • 23 October 2014 08:59 AM
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    After all the numpties slating Agents Mutual and how it is bad for this and how it is bad for that I am glad to hear that Russell Quirk has now given his overwhelming support for Agents Mutual. If he does not think it is a great idea then he would not want to join and therefore would not have made a complaint. THANKS RUSSELL

    • 23 October 2014 08:09 AM
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    What really frustrates me with on-line agents, is the fact that they have one subscription which basically covers the UK. Okay, they do have a structured payment based upon numbers, meaning they eventually pay more for their one office registration. However, if I were to open a second high street office, do you think RM or Z would only charge me a pro rata amount for each property listed NO. I would have to pay the full price for that office day one, with probably no properties actually listed. If online agents wish to cover the nation, then they should have to have an office registered for each Town that they are representing a property, like High Street agents do. Then lets see that charge a packet of peanuts & pint for their so called services. I'm all for competition, but I also like an even playing field. At some point our industry is going to implode on itself with many agents going to the wall as it is going to be impossible to run a decent business on the fee's now being charged.

    • 23 October 2014 08:08 AM
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    An online agent having a pop at AM about exclusion is a bit like the pot calling the kettle black I think. His complaint itself isn't good for competition. I hope this man gets shut up once and for all. He's treading on dangerous territory putting so many people's livelyhoods at stake, mine included. If you read this Mr Quirk, be very careful! History has shown people like you who are stupid enough to openly slay their competition to big themselves up always end in tears. Unless you change your constant attacks your company will not last long. The public don't like trash-mouthed idiots! You may want to get some lessons on running a business that will last.

    • 23 October 2014 07:30 AM
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    Here we go then. As predicted all of those months ago - ultimately this will just damage the reputation of traditional agents. How many more will lodge complaints before we get to January and what if the consumer press get hold of this angle Mr Hayward - you are leading your members down a path of great peril because a minority of your members have decided on a high risk strategy to 'save' the traditional model. This is irresponsible and potentially reckless. Why is the association involved

    • 23 October 2014 07:11 AM
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    Now things get interesting.

    I assume the board members are the 10 he refers to. Of course it will be interesting to see if the board act as one and move against either RM or Z collectively.

    • 23 October 2014 07:02 AM
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    Lodging a complaint is not exactly news. Confirmation of an investigation, maybe. A ruling, yes.

    • 23 October 2014 06:53 AM
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    I personally think that this is an attempt by Quirk To motivate more people to sign up to OnTheMarket taking into account how many traditional agents he is happy to have a pop at every 5 minutes to promote his business model.

    • 23 October 2014 06:24 AM
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    surprised at what one silky tongued man can do using scargill hate tactics to get so many agents to risk their companies. what really isnt clear is why is springett doing this since he cant make money from it.

    is it really that much of a vendetta why would anyone want to be part of such a hate mission

    • 23 October 2014 04:40 AM
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